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Having succeeded to the kingdom of Thebes, Creon cast out the Argive dead unburied, issued a proclamation that none should bury them, and set watchmen. But Antigone, one of the daughters of Oedipus, stole the body of Polynices, and secretly buried it, and having been detected by Creon himself, she was interred alive in the grave.1 Adrastus fled to Athens2 and took refuge at the altar of Mercy,3 and laying on it the suppliant's bough4 he prayed that they would bury the dead. And the Athenians marched with Theseus, captured Thebes, and gave the dead to their kinsfolk to bury. And when the pyre of Capaneus was burning, his wife Evadne, the daughter of Iphis, thew herself on the pyre, and was burned with him.5


1 Apollodorus here follows the account of Antigone's heroism and doom as they are described by Sophocles in his noble tragedy, the Antigone. Compare Aesch. Seven 1005ff. A different version of the story is told by Hyginus, Fab. 72. According to him, when Antigone was caught in the act of performing funeral rites for her brother Polynices, Creon handed her over for execution to his son Haemon, to whom she had been betrothed. But Haemon, while he pretended to put her to death, smuggled her out of the way, married her, and had a son by her. In time the son grew up and came to Thebes, where Creon detected him by the bodily mark which all descendants of the Sparti or Dragon-men bore on their bodies. In vain Herakles interceded for Haemon with his angry father. Creon was inexorable; so Haemon killed himself and his wife Antigone. Some have thought that in this narrative Hyginus followed Euripides, who wrote a tragedy Antigone, of which a few fragments survive. See TGF (Nauck 2nd ed.), pp. 404ff.

2 As to the flight of Adrastus to Athens, and the intervention of the Athenians on his behalf see Isoc. 4.54-58; Isoc. 12.168-174; Paus. 1.39.2; Plut. Thes. 29; Statius, Theb. xii.464ff., (who substitutes Argive matrons as suppliants instead of Adrastus). The story is treated by Euripides in his extant play The Suppliants, which, on the whole, Apollodorus follows. But whereas Apollodorus, like Statius, lays the scene of the supplication at the altar of Mercy in Athens, Euripides lays it at the altar of Demeter in EleusisEur. Supp. 1ff.). In favour of the latter version it may be said that the graves of the fallen leaders were shown at Eleusis, near the Flowery Well (Paus. 1.39.1ff.; Plut. Thes. 29); while the graves of the common soldiers were at Eleutherae, which is on the borders of Attica and Boeotia, on the direct road from Eleusis to ThebesEur. Supp. 756ff.; Plut. Thes. 29). Tradition varied also on the question how the Athenians obtained the permission of the Thebans to bury the Argive dead. Some said that Theseus led an army to Thebes, defeated the Thebans, and compelled them to give up the dead Argives for burial. This was the version adopted by Euripides, Statius, and Apollodorus. Others said that Theseus sent an embassy and by negotiations obtained the voluntary consent of the Thebans to his carrying off the dead. This version, as the less discreditable to the Thebans, was very naturally adopted by them (Paus. 1.39.2) and by the patriotic Boeotian Plutarch, who expressly rejects Euripides's account of the Theban defeat. Isocrates, with almost incredible fatuity, adopts both versions in different passages of his writings and defends himself for so doing (Isoc. 12.168-174). Lysias, without expressly mentioning the flight of Adrastus to Athens, says that the Athenians first sent heralds to the Thebans with a request for leave to bury the Argive dead, and that when the request was refused, they marched against the Thebans, defeated them in battle, and carrying off the Argive dead buried them at Eleusis. See Lys. 2.7-10.

3 As to the altar of Mercy at Athens see above Apollod. 2.8.1; Paus. 1.17.1, with my note (vol. ii. pp. 143ff.); Diod. 13.22.7; Statius, Theb. xii.481-505. It is mentioned in a late Greek inscription found at AthensCorpus Inscriptionum Atticarum, iii.170; G. Kaibel, Epigrammata Graeca ex lapidibus conlecta 792). The altar, though not mentioned by early writers, was in later times one of the most famous spots in Athens. Philostratus says that the Athenians built an altar of Mercy as the thirteenth of the gods, and that they poured libations on it, not of wine, but of tears (Philostratus, Epist. 39). In this fancy he perhaps copied Statius, Theb. xii.488, “lacrymis altaria sudant”.

4 The branch of olive which a suppliant laid on the altar of a god in token that he sought the divine protection. See Andoc. 1.110ff.; Jebb on Sophocles, OT 3.

5 For the death of Evadne on the pyre of her husband Capaneus, see Eur. Supp. 1034ff.; Zenobius, Cent. i.30; Prop. i.15.21ff.; Ovid, Tristia v.14.38; Ovid, Pont. iii.1.111ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 243; Statius, Theb. xii.800ff., with the note of Lactantius Placidus on Statius, Theb. v. 801; Martial iv.75.5. Capaneus had been killed by a thunderbolt as he was mounting a ladder at the siege of Thebes. See Apollod. 3.6.7. Hence his body was deemed sacred and should have been buried, not burned, and the grave fenced off; whereas the other bodies were all consumed on a single pyre. See Eur. Supp. 934-938, where συμπήξας τάφον refers to the fencing in of the grave. So the tomb of Semele, who was also killed by lightning, seems to have stood within a sacred enclosure. See Eur. Ba. 6-11. Yet, inconsistently with the foregoing passage, Euripides appears afterwards to assume that the body of Capaneus was burnt on a pyre (Eur. Supp. 1000ff.). The rule that a person killed by a thunderbolt should be buried, not burnt, is stated by Pliny, Nat. Hist. ii.145 and alluded to by Tertullian, Apologeticus 48. An ancient Roman law, attributed to Numa, forbade the celebration of the usual obsequies for a man who had been killed by lightning. See Festus, s.v. “Occisum,” p. 178, ed. C. O. Müller. It is true that these passages refer to the Roman usage, but the words of Eur. Supp. 934-938 seem to imply that the Greek practice was similar, and this is confirmed by Artemidorus, who says that the bodies of persons killed by lightning were not removed but buried on the spot (Artemidorus, Onirocrit. ii.9). The same writer tells us that a man struck by lightning was not deemed to be disgraced, nay, he was honoured as a god; even slaves killed by lightning were approached with respect, as honoured by Zeus, and their dead bodies were wrapt in fine garments. Such customs are to some extent explained by the belief that Zeus himself descended in the flash of lightning; hence whatever the lightning struck was naturally regarded as holy. Places struck by lightning were sacred to Zeus the Descender (Ζεὺς καταιβάτης ) and were enclosed by a fence. Inscriptions marking such spots have been found in various parts of Greece. See Pollux ix.41; Paus. 5.14.10, with (Frazer, Paus. vol. iii. p. 565, vol. v. p. 614). Compare E. Rohde, Psyche(3), i.320ff.; H. Useher, “Keraunos,” Kleine Schriften, iv.477ff., (who quotes from Clemens Romanus and Cyrillus more evidence of the worship of persons killed by lightning); Chr. Blinkenberg, The Thunder-weapon in Religion and Folklore (Cambridge, 1911), pp. 110ff. Among the Ossetes of the Caucasus a man who has been killed by lightning is deemed very lucky, for they believe that he has been taken by St. Elias to himself. So the survivors raise cries of joy and sing and dance about him. His relations think it their duty to join in these dances and rejoicings, for any appearance of sorrow would be regarded as a sin against St. Elias and therefore punishable. The festival lasts eight days. The deceased is dressed in new clothes and laid on a pillow in the exact attitude in which he was struck and in the same place where he died. At the end of the celebrations he is buried with much festivity and feasting, a high cairn is erected on his grave, and beside it they set up a tall pole with the skin of a black he-goat attached to it, and another pole, on which hang the best clothes of the deceased. The grave becomes a place of pilgrimage. See Julius von Klaproth, Reise in den Kaukasus und nach Georgien (Halle and Berlin, 1814), ii.606; A. von Haxthausen, Transkaukasia (Leipsig, 1856), ii.21ff. Similarly the Kafirs of South Africa “have strange notions respecting the lightning. They consider that it is governed by the umshologu, or ghost, of the greatest and most renowned of their departed chiefs, and who is emphatically styled the inkosi; but they are not at all clear as to which of their ancestors is intended by this designation. Hence they allow of no lamentation being made for a person killed by lightning, as they say that it would be a sign of disloyalty to lament for one whom the inkosi had sent for, and whose services he consequently needed; and it would cause him to punish them, by making the lightning again to descend and do them another injury.” Further, rites of purification have to be performed by a priest at the kraal where the accident took place; and till these have been performed, none of the inhabitants may leave the kraal or have intercourse with other people. Meantime their heads are shaved and they must abstain from drinking milk. The rites include a sacrifice and the inoculation of the people with powdered charcoal. See “Mr. Warner's Notes,” in Col. Maclean's Compendium of Kafir Laws and Customs (Cape Town, 1866), pp. 82-84. Sometimes, however, the ghosts of persons who have been killed by lightning are deemed to be dangerous. Hence the Omahas used to slit the soles of the feet of such corpses to prevent their ghosts from walking about. See J. Owen Dorsey, “A Study of Siouan Cults,” Eleventh Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology (Washington, 1894), p. 420. For more evidence of special treatment accorded to the bodies of persons struck dead by lightning, see A. B. Ellis, The Ewe-speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast (London, 1890), p. 39ff.; A. B. Ellis, The Yoruba-speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast (London, 1894), p. 49; Rev. J. H. Weeks, “Notes on some customs of the Lower Congo people,” Folk-Lore, xx. (1909), p. 475; Rendel Harris, Boanerges (Cambridge, 1913), p. 97; A. L. Kitching, On the backwaters of the Nile (London, 1912), pp. 264ff. Among the Barundi of Central Africa, a man or woman who has been struck, but not killed, by lightning becomes thereby a priest or priestess of the god Kiranga, whose name he or she henceforth bears and of whom he or she is deemed a bodily representative. And any place that has been struck by lightning is enclosed, and the trunk of a banana-tree or a young fig-tree is set up in it to serve as the temporary abode of the deity who manifested himself in the lightning. See H. Meyer, Die Barundi (Leipsig, 1916), pp. 123, 135.

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